(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
FARMINGTON -- Coming off one of the best regular seasons in school history, the Sikeston Bulldogs soccer team will enter the Class 2, District 1 tournament tonight looking to defend last year's title.
Unlike their 8-0 blowout of Fredericktown in 2011's semifinals, the Bulldogs expect a much tighter contest when they face off against Cape Central at 7 p.m. in Farmington.
Cape Central is coming off a move down from Class 3 this year and have played the Bulldogs in two tight contests during the regular season, only to see Sikeston pull out a win in each.
In early September, Sikeston was able to beat out Cape Central 1-0 at home before overcoming a one-goal second half deficit on Oct. 11 to win 3-2 on penalty kicks.
"They're very similar to us," Sikeston head coach Doyle Noe said of Cape Central. "They have a great goal keeper whose very good in the back. They have some skill players all over the field and some guys who can pop, break free and score some goals very quickly. When we played them last time we were up 1-0 and they scored two goals in about a five minute span to take the lead. So they can score quickly and they're very dangerous.
"Your defense has to play the full 80 minutes and you can't have any letdowns or else they'll put a goal in and come the postseason, one goal sometimes is the difference."
One thing the Bulldogs will have going for them as they enter the tournament is that their season, so far, has eclipsed last year's record setting pace.
Sikeston comes into the semifinals with a 19-4 record and having not lost since Sept. 22. Their current win total is just one shy of tying last-season's 20-5 finish, which was a school record.
This year's squad also holds the school record for shutouts, currently at 14, beating the previous mark of 11 set last season.
"I'm very pleased with where we're at," Noe said. "I'm not going to sell us short to anybody by any means. Our defense is playing well. Josh (Hampton) is playing really well in goal and Chase (Baron) and Audi Hay are moving the ball very well in the midfield.
"Adam (Johnson) is still scoring up top and Brandon Goodwin is starting the find the back of the net, which is a good thing. I think we're playing well, hopefully we're peaking at the right time come districts. I definitely like our chances although it's going to be tough to get by Cape Tuesday."